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A JetBlue Airways Airbus 320 made an emergency landing in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Tuesday after a laptop computer stored in an overhead began emitting smoke. The flight landed safely with no injuries.

Passengers told news outlets that the incident caused significant smoke in the cabin, although none reported signs of flames. The flight was enroute from New York's JFK to San Francisco when it diverted to Grand Rapids. After the aircraft was inspected, passengers continued on to San Francisco.

The incident adds to a list of battery smoke or fire incidents on aircraft, according to the FAA. As of this week, 160 incidents involving smoke or fire with lithium batteries have been reported since 1991. These have involved computers, e-cigarettes, power tools and chargers. The FAA says its list doesn't necessarily cover all the incidents that have been reported or have occurred.  

The JetBlue incident comes as the U.S. is discussing banning laptops entirely from the cabins of U.S.-bound flight originating in Europe. Computers are already banned from 50 named cities, most of them in Africa or the Middle East.

Garmin - Get ADS-B

The newest version of ForeFlight’s electronic flight bag software will include advanced fuel and performance planning tools for an additional $100 per year ($200 per year over the basic subscription price). Tyson Weihs, ForeFlight co-founder and CEO, said, “The new performance product that we’re launching delivers high performance flight planning for high performance airplanes.” The app for Apple iOS devices will be pre-populated with detailed manufacturer-provided performance data for most fixed-wing aircraft from basic piston trainers to large business jets, allowing operators to calculate fuel burn and flight time for the full range of altitude and power settings, accounting for temperature, winds aloft, and payload without manually calculating average fuel burn figures.

Included in the performance package, ForeFlight’s new weight check tool builds on basic weight and balance functions by verifying compliance with all of an aircraft’s structural weight restrictions—maximum ramp, maximum takeoff, maximum zero fuel and maximum landing. The new fuel planning tools allow operators to calculate block fuel based on a preferred fuel policy, such as a fixed amount of fuel remaining at the destination, legal minimums at destination or maximum within structural weight limits at takeoff and landing.

Unriveled range of cylinders unbeatable list of benefits, only from Continental

Paul Allen’s ambitious, fixed-wing satellite launch platform, the Stratolaunch, rolled out of its hangar Wednesday to begin ground and taxi testing. The colossal twin-fuselage aircraft, built by Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites, is projected to be—by wingspan—the largest aircraft to have ever taken flight, at 385 feet wide. The prototype has a 500,000-pound empty weight, a target maximum takeoff weight of 1.3 million pounds and is powered by six turbofans scavenged from Boeing 747-400s.

“Today, we’re moving the Stratolaunch aircraft out of the hangar—for the first time ever—to conduct aircraft fueling tests. This marks the completion of the initial aircraft construction phase and the beginning of the aircraft ground and flight testing phase,” says Stratolaunch CEO, Jean Floyd. Stratolaunch hopes to reduce the size of rockets and therefore the cost of putting small satellites in space by launching from the stratosphere. The Stratolaunch is designed to carry three Orbital ATK Pegasus XL rockets, each of which will drive a satellite up to 1,000 pounds into low earth orbit.

PS Engineering 'Your alternative to Garmin

Following the 2011 Budget Control Act, better known as the bill requiring “sequestration,” the U.S. Air Force put eight of its newly upgraded C-5M Galaxy strategic airlifters into backup aircraft inventory—a highly ready but non-flying status—in order to keep operational costs under control, but Lt. Gen. Jerry D. Harris, the Air Force deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, told Congress earlier this week that the force wants to reactivate them. “We’re going to buy back two a year for four years,” Lt. Gen Harris told the House Subcommittee, assuming Congress provides the necessary funding.

The C-5 is the U.S. military’s most expensive airlifter per flight hour, which, in part, drove the decision to keep the C-5s on the ground in the early part of the decade. Although not an exact measure of operating costs, the U.S. Air Force’s 2016 reimbursement rate for non-federal use of the C-5M was almost $31,000 per flight hour. The smaller and newer C-17 Globemaster gets billed to non-federal users at $16,400 per flight hour. By maximum takeoff weight, the C-5 is about 45% larger than the C-17 allowing either a significant increase in payload or significant increase in range over the Air Force’s primary strategic airlifter. Although costly, under certain scenarios, the ability of the C-5 to fly nonstop from Travis Air Force Base in California to Japan significantly shortens the time to deploy particularly heavy equipment and necessary personnel to an Asian conflict.

Starr - 'Click to read about Basic Med'

F-86A image: John Dibbs/EAA

With Memorial Day behind us, the summer season takes off, and EAA has plenty of events in the works for this summer’s biggest aviation show, AirVenture. The U.S. Navy Blue Angels will make their first full team performance at the show on Friday and Saturday. Also flying at the show for the first time will be a rare North American F-86A Sabre, the world’s oldest flying jet. The airplane, built in 1948, “is considered an excellent example of a true machine-age icon, as it doesn’t have a single semiconductor,” says EAA. Another highlight will be a gathering of Apollo astronauts to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the first Apollo mission. Warbird fans are looking forward to the first flight at the show of the B-29 ‘Doc,’ which has been under restoration in Wichita for 16 years.

The U.S. Navy Blue Angels demonstration team is also scheduled to perform. WomenVenture, a series of events to inspire women to participate in aviation, will be held for the 10th year. “WomenVenture is a tremendous experience for women,” said Kelly Nelson, a pilot and executive editor for EAA publications. “These activities can be a springboard to motivate women to get involved in aviation, either for fun or as a future career, as we present activities that motivate, inform and inspire.” EAA AirVenture will be held July 24-30 at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Pilots who plan to fly in to the show should review the Notam, posted online. The CAFE Symposium, where experts explore the latest in technology for electric-powered aircraft, moves to Oshkosh this year, and will be held on the University of Wisconsin campus the weekend before AirVenture.

Also on display this year for the first time will be a rare 1949 Boeing YL-15. Only 12 were built and only this one is currently flying. It was designed as a liaison aircraft but never went into production. 

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The instrument rating is probably the most challenging step-up in aviation—and this is coming from an ATP with a couple of jet type ratings. With the rating in your pocket, how can you make flying easier and more satisfying? How to stay proficient? Chances are your CFII started you out with most of the following recommendations but they may have become a bit hazy over the years—so let’s refresh.

An important skill in a pilot’s repertoire is a thorough understanding of the Pitch + Power = Performance equation for each aircraft type. Pilots must know the power setting and configuration (pitch/flaps/gear) needed to achieve a desired airspeed for level flight as well as climbs or descents.

For example, establish the preferred airspeed for the initial phase of an instrument approach in level flight and verify the selected flap setting. For most single-engine airplanes, 90 KIAS is a good target. Note the power and pitch setting required.

Next, reduce power until the airplane settles into a 500 FPM descent. Since you are already trimmed for 90 KIAS (airplanes are trimmed to maintain an airspeed, right?) this should be a simple transition. Note the new power and pitch setting required. When flying a retractable gear aircraft, you will define a low cruise descent (gear-up) and the glideslope intercept descent (gear-down).  If it is the latter you will probably extend the gear before reducing the power. Gear extension may be all that is required to settle into the 500 FPM descent with little adjustment of power.

Perform a similar exercise with a power addition for a 500 FPM climb (or the max achievable under current conditions at Vy). Record the numbers and keep them handy.

Although this may seem overly complicated in single-engine, fixed-pitch, fixed gear airplanes, it becomes critical when flying more powerful and complex airplanes. With jet aircraft, because of engine lag, and greater momentum to manage, it is critical to know the target power setting since there won’t be an immediate effect when the throttles are moved.

Practice this until the throttle settings and pitch values become second nature—perhaps the most helpful skill you can cultivate. It will make flying easier and more fun and may even be a lifesaver one day—as discovered. I was giving instrument dual when the weather deteriorated far more that forecast.

We were level on-top at 4000 feet when I noticed that, no matter what the student did with the controls, there didn’t seem to be any reaction on the airspeed, altimeter or VSI. Sure enough, we had lost the pitot-static system. The closest airport was just above ILS minimums and deteriorating rapidly. Since I knew this airplane required 2100 RPM to fly at 90 knots in level flight and 1700 RPM to descend at 500 FPM at 90 KIAS, we asked for vectors to the localizer about four miles outside the final approach fix and conducted a successful ILS to minimums.

Precision Flying Exercises

Perform these basic Pitch + Power exercises under VFR conditions until you are comfortable with them—it shouldn’t take too long. Then practice under the hood with a safety pilot to put the finishing touches on them—and on you. The stick-and-rudder aspect of these exercises is at least as important as other instrument flying tasks. Learn to control the airplane without using a large number of brain cells (the subconscious airplane handling tasks) so you can devote your cranial activity to more demanding skills.

For the first exercise, set up at your approach speed and trim for level flight. When hands-off flying is established, set up a standard rate turn in either direction. Add any power necessary to maintain altitude at the trimmed airspeed and then announce your airspeed, altitude, and heading every 45 degrees for a full 180-degree turn. Reverse direction and complete the next 180-degree turn in the same manner.

When you are satisfied that you can complete this maneuver with little effort, add another degree of difficulty. For the next set of turns descend at 500 FPM at your selected airspeed for the first 180 degrees of turn and climb at 500 FPM (or Vy—the best rate under the conditions) for the following 180 degrees of turn (known as the Vertical-S). As an added element of difficulty, announce your rate of climb/descent every 45 degrees of turn in addition to the items previously listed.

For the next degree of difficulty—when flying a retractable gear airplane—extend/retract the landing gear with each 180 degrees of turn. For the final exercise of this series, shorten the interval to announce flight parameters from every 45 degrees of turn, to each 30 degrees of turn.

These exercises may be frustrating at first, but it is essential that aircraft handling skills be second nature—controlled by the unconscious rather than the conscious mind—because if you have to think about the elements of these tasks, you will be perpetually behind the airplane.

PC Simulators

If a flight training device or simulator is available you can save expensive airplane time by practicing these maneuvers to hone your scan, but it is critical that you become proficient in the airplane.

MS Flight Simulator, while not realistic enough to build muscle memory skills, it can certainly help with scan and instrument nav tasks.

Before any instrument trip, fly the approaches with MS Flight Sim—both with projected radar vectors to the Final Approach Course and as non-radar approaches. That’s right—go back to the way things were before radar covered virtually the whole country. Fly to the initial approach fix, accomplish any course reversal, and execute the approach, being mindful of altitude changes required. This exercise will make the flight more relaxed when you execute the approach at your destination.

Without question, obtain the PC simulator for any electronic navigation packages in the airplanes you fly. One of the greatest producers of stress is the “buttonology” required during approach phases. Practice approaches with these simulators—until the proper sequence of buttons become a matter of subconscious control.

I will never forget the day I stood helplessly on the ground at the Long Beach, California airport (KLGB) watching one of my students do multiple missed approaches in his Cessna 421. When he finally landed and deplaned—looking stressed—I asked why he appeared so stressed? He told me that he could not figure out the proper button to push to put the navigation system into approach mode. Good thing it was VFR.

Yes, the owner’s manual for some of these systems can be almost an inch thick, but it is vital that you become as familiar with these systems as with good old VORs, and the simulators available are best help you can have.

ATC Mumbo Jumbo

Sometimes it seems that ATC speaks a language other than English and radio traffic reinforces this feeling when you fly into Class B airspace. Recall that ATC messages all come in the same format: Called Party (i.e. 500LE), Calling Party (Chicago Center), and Request/Command/Question (Say airspeed). Listen for your call sign and the rest can usually be ignored—although as you gain experience with congested terminal areas it is good to listen to all radio calls and get the big picture for what’s going on in the airspace.

The best way to get comfortable with extensive radio traffic is to listen often. File often, and get a scanner (or LiveATC.net on the computer) to receive transmissions in busy terminal areas—the more you experience it, the more comfortable it will feel.

Practice, Practice, Practice

As with any complex skill, mastery requires rehearsal, repetition, and exercise. A confidence and comfort level is needed. Many people speak of forming “muscle memory” through repetition—rehearsing a skill long enough for your subconscious mind to be able to control your physical responses without having to think about it.

The conscious mind is slow and the frustration felt in the early days of acquiring a new skill comes from having to deliberately think about every step and can quickly get behind the task. The more you practice, the more you can accomplish the tasks without thinking about them. When this happens, flying gets more enjoyable.

Linda D. Pendleton is an ATP ASMEL with type ratings for the Cessna CE-500 and LRJET.

This article orginally appeared in the June 2015 issue of IFR Refresher magazine.

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I suppose as analogies go, using fruit and baked goods is as good as any to describe the state of the general aviation market. A decade ago, it was sugar plums. Now it’s pies or, to be more accurate, pie in the singular.

About 2005 or so, but definitely by 2007, every GA manufacturer of any size—and many small ones—had or was considering a “China plan.” That’s because China was then seen as a potential bottomless pit of airplane demand, a teeming mass of humanity whose individual and collective hearts throbbed with an unquenchable desire to fly airplanes. Thus the sugar plum analogy.

Ten years later, we’ve come down off that sugar high and accepted that sales of airplanes are, at best, flat, if not in decline globally. The pie isn’t getting any bigger, so companies are angling for a bigger slice of it. Continental’s Rhett Ross put it in more or less those exact words when I interviewed him recently at the company’s Mobile headquarters.

And now, something new: How about a North American plan? The argument for that is seen in the graph here. I couldn’t find good data prior to 2009, but since then, the North American share of the pie has gotten markedly larger while ever other region’s is trending slightly smaller, according to GAMA’s data.

Why is this so? It’s both obvious and not obvious. North America is where the money is, gas is cheap here, regulation is minimal (it’s all relative) and the world comes to the U.S. to learn to fly.  There are currency issues; through the 2005 to 2008 period, the dollar exchange against the Euro was as high as 1.5 to the Euro. It’s now at 1.12. Jets and turboprops are almost exclusively business-use aircraft, but so are some pistons and that’s more likely to be the case in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world. And given that the U.S. economy is outstripping at least some of the western industrial economies, there’s just more business activity here. When you’re selling only 1000 piston airplanes a year, it doesn’t take much of that to move the needle a little.

Cirrus, Cessna and Mooney probably have this baked into their thinking, so their default is to sell in North America. The Austria-based Diamond has noticed the trend and that’s the very reason the recently announced DA50-VII will have a Lycoming TEO-540 as a primary engine and diesel as an option. Diamond’s Christian Dries recently told me that’s what will sell in the U.S. and that’s where the larger slice of pie will be found. I knew the data supported his supposition, but until I graphed it out, I didn’t realize how dramatic the swing has been.

I also took a look at longer trend lines in GA sales. We tend to obsess about GAMA’s quarterly sales reports, but the second graph shows why we shouldn’t. Total GA output—that’s everything from pistons to jets—has been essentially flat since 2009. There was a little bump in 2014, but current sales have hovered around 2200 airframes a year or just over 50 percent of the last high-water mark in 2007, which was 4276 aircraft.

That was a full decade ago, which is why you don’t hear people talking about “recovery” anymore since the realization has set in that the cycle has probably extended beyond the normal business swing. No one can say for sure, but if we’re ever going to reach 4000-plus airframes again, the market forces that will do that seem to be well camouflaged. But turn the question on its head and ask if 2007 was just an aberration, a fluky peak never to be repeated.

Maybe. But there must have been a reason for it. In an otherwise stagnant market for anything, new products stimulate sales and that’s probably true of airplanes, too. Two things were new in 2005, when the sales peak was becoming visible: the widespread availability of glass cockpits and Diamond’s DA42 diesel twin, which found latent demand in the training industry. Since then, we’ve had iterative improvements, but no major product introductions. The Cirrus jet and Diamond’s DA60 may be innovative enough to bump the numbers some. We’ll see.

Just as a curiosity, I plotted world GDP growth against aircraft sales. As you can plainly see, there’s loose correlation, but definitely loose. It’s strongest in the flat part of the curve since 2009.  I also looked at the first-quarter sales extending back to 2004. GAMA’s first-quarter report for 2017 seemed to show a bright spot; sales were up 6 percent over the same period in 2016. While that’s good news, I don’t think it means much.

Since 2009, there have been first quarters better than that and worse than that. The average for that period is 383; the mean 371. I think in context, it’s just noise in the data. Absent any other changes or data, I think that curve sketches a sea change. The market is now trending more strongly toward replacement of training aircraft than it did from 2005 to 2007. There’s still enough wealth out there for private owners to write $500,000 checks for new airplanes, but are we more likely to find fewer rather than more of them? I think the former for the short term. Until, of course, all those Chinese wake up to the fact that they’re burning to fly airplanes.

You’re welcome to post your own theories in the comments section.

Can wi-fi make you a smarter pilot?

As drones get ever more capable, a company called ARA has married them to a system of ground sensors that can automatically dispatch a drone to monitor suspicious foot traffic. That means border protection and military perimeter monitoring.

Picture of the Week
Picture of the Week

A hot jet landing on a hot day makes a nice shot to show the utility of business aviation in a fast-paced business. Thomas Backus caught Arizona Cardinals' President Michael Bidwell's Citation X landing at Scottsdale Airport. Nice shot Thomas.

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